Ultimate, Moist Pumpkin Bread (with cherries, nuts, sunflower seeds and cream cheese)


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(Becky, the Mama.)

Yesterday, Colorado was cool, misty and alive with Fall color.  I snapped this picture out my upstairs bedroom window . Through the window pane and the mist, the photo came out looking like a painting, so beautiful it seemed almost unreal.
Room with an Autumn View


On a day like that, what else is there to do but curl up with a book and a blanket, take a long nap, then wake up, pad to the kitchen and bake pumpkin bread?

I searched for what I hoped would be the perfect recipe for pumpkin bread: I wanted it to be moist, spicy and full of tasty surprises.  I narrowed it down to six recipes.  In the end,  I threw elements from all six recipes into the bowl and pans, adding special tweaks of my own. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I’d doubled the spices, used both brown and white sugar plus a tad of maple syrup, folded chopped pecans and dried cherries into the batter.  Then I thought, “Why not?”  as I plopped dollops of whipped cream cheese in the middle of the batter. Then I wondered, “What could make a nice sweet n’ salty crunchy top crust?” I reached for brown sugar and roasted salted sunflower seed kernels.  Then I popped the loaves into the oven and waited.  I had created either a masterpiece, or disaster.  I worried I might  have tweaked this recipe to death.

Well, I am pleased to announce the results are in and they are a 10.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is the BEST pumpkin bread I have ever tasted, moist with deep flavor and so many treats-to-the-senses per bite: the sweet tartness of the cherries, the smooth bits of cream cheese and satisfying chew of baked-in-pecans.  The crunchy crust… with a hint of salt and sugar..oh. my.

But don’t just take my word for it. Try it yourself next time the baking mood hits you on one of these cool fall days that beckon you to the kitchen. And feel free to tweak away and make the recipe even more your own– switch out the dried cherries for any dried fruit you like, or use chocolate chips (hmmm… white chocolate chips? Butterscotch chips?).  Use nuts you prefer or have on hand.  I never let what’s not in my pantry keep me from making a recipe.  Go with what you’ve got,  what sounds good… and most of all,have fun.

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Becky’s Epic Pumpkin Bread

(Makes 2 loaves)

3 cups flour 

1 cup sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar

2 t. cinnamon

1 t. ginger

1 t. cloves

1 t. nutmeg

1 t. salt 

3 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

3 eggs

2 T. maple syrup

1 can (16 oz) pumpkin 

2/3 cup light oil  (I used olive oil as it was all I had on hand.  Worked beautifully.) 

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1/2 cup roughly chopped dried cherries (or cranberries)

whipped cream cheese ( I used a light variety that comes in a tub)…  about 1/2  to 2/3 cup

For Topping:  

1/4 to 1/3 cup brown or turbinado sugar 

1/3 to 1/2  cup roasted, salted sunflower seed kernels 



Heat oven to 350 degrees

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl with a whisk. Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add eggs, syrup, pumpkin, oil.  Whisk the wet ingredients together as you slowly incorporate the dry ingredients as well.  Finish stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula, slowly folding in pecans and dried cherries.  

Grease and flour two loaf pans.  Pour (or spoon) 1/4 of the batter into each pan, and spread evenly.  Then dollop heaping teaspoons of whipped cream cheese across the surface of the batter in both pans.  Pour the remaining batter over the top of the cream cheese, dividing it evenly between the two pans. Smooth with spatula.

Sprinkle the tops of the batter with brown or turbinado sugar and sunflower seeds.  

Bake for 40 minutes, or until top is golden and a toothpick in the middle comes out clean. 

Cool thoroughly before serving.  I think the flavors of this bread get better as it sits and cools.   Freezes beautifully. 

Note: I made this at high altitude with no problem.  Many quick breads use more baking soda, but I just hate the after-taste of baking soda. This option rises perfectly, but without that funky  soda aftertaste…

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Wanted: F-d Up People to Heal the World

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Nourish Your Soul 

(Becky, the mama.)

I enjoyed the most fabulous dinner last night with dear friends. The kind of conversation that lasted five hours, but the time flew so that you never noticed the ticking clock. We’ve shared our deepest wounds and struggles and, thus, our bond is deep. As Heather Kopp noted so perfectly in her book Sober Mercies, “people bond more deeply over shared brokenness than they do shared beliefs.”

I shared Heather’s quote in a small group of folks the other night. One young man, about age thirty said, “That is so true. I just can’t bond with people who are perfect or have their act together. I bond with really f-d up people.” Pause. Then he pointed my way and said, “Like Becky!”

I shrugged, did a Vanna White-style gesture of myself, and say, “Let it be duly noted that I am Exhibit A under ‘F’d- Up People’.” He just kept on talking, earnestly, as my husband Greg and I exchanged glances and struggled not to laugh. Both of us knew this guy really, sincerely meant it as a compliment. Which I am going to cherish always.

It is in this theme, the “bonding of brokenness” that I am getting a hint at why some of our troubles are not instantly healed. Many of us have long-carried a chronic ache — whether it is physical, relational, emotional or spiritual. Whether it is a depressed mood or a bad back, a lost dream or a lost child, we’ve not been able to pray or positive-think this trouble away, though Lord knows we’ve given it our all.

Thornton Wilder’s play, “The Angel Who Troubled the Waters,” is based on the biblical story of the angel who troubled the waters at the pool of Bethesda. Wilder imagines a surprising twist, however, on the familiar scene. As the original story goes, whoever gets to the water first, after the angel stirs it, gets healed.  A  physician who has suffered for years with a “flaw of the heart,” has been waiting for years for his chance at healing, and he finally sees and ceases the opportunity to be first in the  pool!


But an angel appears to him before he can touch the water and says, “Without your wound where would your power be? It is your very sadness that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In Love’s service only the wounded soldiers can serve. Draw back.”

Later, the person who enters the pool first and was healed rejoices in his good fortune then turns to the physician before leaving and says, “But come with me first, an hour only, to my home. My son is lost in dark thoughts. I — I do not understand him, and only you have ever lifted his mood. Only an hour . . . my daughter, since her child has died, sits in the shadow. She will not listen to us but she will listen to you.”

It is strangely true that “in Love’s service” it often takes one broken person to reach another broken person. And perhaps this sheds some light on why we are not all instantly healed of our messy lives, our messy minds, our messy bodies, our messy hearts.

God can only use Wounded Soldiers in some of the most difficult missions on earth.

When we look at our life that has held its share of grief, pain, failures, struggles and wounds, it helps to know that our pain can serve a purpose; that our troubles equip us for the mission of bonding with and binding up other broken, hurting, f-d up people.

You aren’t cursed; you are called.. . to love and to comfort ever more deeply.

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If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.

Psalm 34:18

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

2 Cor 1:4

How We Came to Write Books Together: Growing Up in a Nest of Women Writers

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A little painting I made for my daughter Rachel to celebrate the two books we’ve been privileged to write together. (Nourished comes out Jan. 2015.)


(Becky, the Mama)

I love this picture, below, of three generations of four of the  female writers in our family tree.

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The Chicks in My Family Writing Nest: My mother, Ruthie; me; my daughter Rachel; my sister, Rachel (for whom I named my daughter)


The first writer in the family tree was actually my Aunt Etta, who turns 90 this year (still sharp, witty and active) .  She was featured in an article below, in 2001, that describes her thus:

Lynch worked outside the home also for 21 years as a beautician, but began writing professionally in 1963. Etta Lynch, 77, a college student who has a 4-point average in courses at St. Edwards University, is living a life of freedom after spending most of her adult years as a care-giver for others. She works also as a writer and teacher.

“With faith, prayer and determination, any obstacle can be overcome,” she said in explaining why she is enrolled as a college student at 77.

“His name was Jimmy,” she said, remembering her late husband. “Cancer spread to his shoulder and his lung, and the doctors said two months, maybe six months. The man lived 33 years. He’s Chapter 2 in my book, ‘Help is Only a Prayer Away.’ I just really believe that prayer saved him.”

A-J Photo / Ray Westbrook

Many years after I watched her sign her first book, Help is Only a Prayer Away (Revell), as a 12 year old girl in 1972,  Etta would host a book-signing party for  Real Magnolias, a book that included a story about Etta and her influence on me.

Here’s more musings on growing up in a next of women writers, excerpted from We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook:



In addition to baking the best pies I’ve ever tasted,  Aunt Etta was the first writer in the family. I’ll never forget the pride I felt as a thirteen-year-old girl, watching her sign copies of her book, Help is Only a Prayer Away, at a library book party in Sweetwater, Texas. Aunt Etta noted my mother’s talent for writing and encouraged her efforts as well. Before long my mom was pounding at the typewriter, publishing articles and collaborating on books.

Over the years, my mother passed the humor-cooking-writing torch on to me and my younger sister.  Cooking and serving alongside Mother  gave me the skills needed to start a part-time catering business that helped pay the bills in lean times. The writing lessons and appreciation for humor she gave me would launch what would be a full decade of speaking, entertaining and writing.

The first book I wrote with my mother, Ruthie, some 20 years ago now!

The first book I wrote with my mother, Ruthie, some 20 years ago now! I remarried in 2004, and thus, the name change:)


My sister, too, for whom my daughter is named, has written and published three books of humor and inspiration.  

It is interesting to me how many of my writing friends, and great writers, also love to cook and have an appreciation for fine food.  Ann Morrow Lindbergh once wrote, “When I cannot write a poem, I bake biscuits and feel just as pleased.” Perhaps there’s some mysterious link between the writing and cooking gene.

Now I am warmed to see my daughter pick up the legacy of laughter, love of cooking, and ability to tell and write a good story with the best of the women in our family tree. In truth, I have known that Rachel had The Gift since she was a teenager. I just didn’t know when she would be ready to see it, embrace it and share it.

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The apostle Paul told his apprentice Timothy about the importance of “fanning into flame” the  gift of God within him, emphasizing that this gift was passed down from his grandmother and his mother. The word picture that leaps my mind when I read these words is my Nonny putting her arm around my Aunt Etta and my mother; my mother putting her arms around me and my sister, and now, me putting my arm around my daughter to pass along whatever we have to give one another so that each individual woman may use these gifts, in her own unique way, to better enjoy and bless the world.

(Excerpted from We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook by Becky Johnson & Rachel Randolph.  Zondervan 2013.  Pages 21-22)

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Can you tell I learned how to make Memes today? Thought you might enjoy this quote, above, too. Please feel free to pin, post or tweet! God bless you today with the comfort and joy that books bring to our lives.


Nourish Your Relationships: 6 Ways to Be the Crazy Aunt (Or Grandma) Kids Love

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Me and Two of My Favorite Buckaroos: My grandson Georgie and Grand-Niece Jenna

I grew up in a family that adored babies and got a big kick out of the little people among us.

My grandmother Nonny kept the church nursery and when I got to help her by rocking and soothing a fussy baby… I was in heaven. From the moment I got my first child-size rocking chair,  I took the care and feeding of my baby dolls seriously, all my little girl life.  And when I got a real live baby sister, well, call me Little Mama.


Me, age 4 practicing my nurturing skills on my baby sister. My brother, on the other hand, is calling for back up.

At a typical family reunion, children were the highlight and joy, and telling stories about the cute things they did or said was our favorite form of entertainment. So perhaps it wasn’t surprising that I had four children of my own, got a degree in Early Childhood Education, wrote books for children and books for adults filled with funny stories about kids. I would rather sit, talk and play with my grandkids than get a pedicure or eat chocolate cake.

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Shootin’ the Breeze with Littlest Grandson Jackson at my youngest’s wedding this summer

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Goofin’ around with my oldest grandson Nate!

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Hittin’ the slide with sweet grandson Titus

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Getting acquainted with grandson Anthony — soon after his adoption

A few years ago, my cousin Jamie (now a much-in-demand professional nanny) and I were talking about kids with our typical sense of wonder, and how much comic relief they’ve given us through the years.

Jamie suddenly asked. “Can you believe there are people who aren’t bonkers over babies and little ones?”

“I know!” I said.  “Just think of what they are missing…”

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My husband “Poppy” and me with our godsons, Boston & Hudson!

Last week I got to take care of a little darlin’ eight-year-old girl, my friend’s daughter, for a few hours.


A Book Girl, after my own heart!

Here is my Facebook Post from the end of the day:

I will tell you my secret with kids: at some point, try as they might to be shy, they cannot keep themselves from laughing when I am around. My little charge was pretty quiet this morning, a bit shy, using mostly head nods in response while I chatted away.

“I can’t find my apron!” I said, “And I just had it on. I wonder where I put it? I should probably tell you that I forget and lose things alot. I may need your help finding stuff. Oh, well, I will just put on another one. Good thing I have lots of aprons.”

Then I opened the top oven door and burst out laughing. There on the pan was about 50 baby carrots, charred beyond recognition. Carrots I put in the oven and forgot about THREE nights ago. I brought the pan over to this little girl, who was lying on the couch sweetly and said, “Look at this! I burned all these carrots.”

Her eyes got big, and then I added, “I know what you are thinking. It looks like tray of cat poop.” With this she laughed, and began chatting and making herself at home.

A few minutes later I was starting to feel suddenly over-heated so I took off my apron, and realized that I was WEARING the missing one under it, too. The whole time I’d been looking for the missing apron, I had been wearing it! These things, too, amuse small children.

A man, a lawyer friend, who had never had children commented, “Short people scare me. I am so glad there are people like you who love ‘em.”

That started me thinking…..

My nieces, Tori and Whitney snuggled up with me, "Crazy Aunt Becky"

My nieces, Tori and Whitney snuggled up with me, “Crazy Aunt Becky”

And so, off the top of my head, I came up with these suggestions for making friends with the short set.

Be a Hit with Kids! 6 Ideas to Help You Connect with Littles 

1. Be Silly & Helpless:  Laugh at yourself when you goof up – it makes them feel like you need someone to take care of you, and usually they’ll rise to the occasion to help you out.

2. Use the word “poop”: Sometime in your conversation, use the word “poop”. I don’t know why it works but kids will think you are funnier than Will Ferrell. Don’t over-do it, just say it once in a blue moon when they least expect it.

3. Learn to Make PlayDough: This stuff (recipe at end of this blog) makes a large ballof  soft squishy dough in no time. Kids of all ages love to help you stir the ingredients together, and get a charge out of watching the magical way the liquid quickly turns to dough in the pan. Give them a rolling pin, some cookie cutters, some dull plastic knives and they will not only be occupied but, mesmerized. They’ll look at you as if you are the reincarnation of Julia Child and Houdini.

4. Do the Straw Trick:  If you want to have a 7-year-old boy eating out of your hand, all you need is a straw. It takes a little practice but you simply insert one end of the straw into your armpit, folding your arm over it tightly, put the other end of the straw in your mouth and  blow. The noises that come forth will give you Pied Piper-like power over any male under age 12.

5. Flatter Them Like Crazy.  When you ask children about themselves — what they like, what they did today, what they plan to do tomorrow – act like you’ve just seen giant daises sprout from their heads. “What? Are you KIDDING me? You know how to say your COLORS? Like, ALL of them? Do you even know RED? Can you show me RED, because that is a really HARD color to find.”

Then watch them giggle, stand up straight and show off their talents as if they were the world’s greatest authority on Crayons and Rainbows. Flattery will get you everywhere. Spread it on thick.

6. Use Wild Stories to Sedate Them: If small children are upset in that way that makes them act like a rabid dog, make up a wild story to distract them. Say, you forgot to get bananas at the store and now 3-year-old world has fallen apart, life is not worth living, they are inconsolable and perhaps even face down on the floor in a fit of No-Banana-Induced Despair. As we do.

Try saying, “Hey! Did I tell you WHY we have no bananas today?!?  It was because that ol’ hungry purple gorilla. Yes. That’s right. A purple gorilla was sitting in the middle of the grocery aisle yesterday, and eating ALL the bananas. He didn’t even leave ONE teeny tiny banana for any of us other shoppers..”” This should stop the fit in mid-air as their brains latch on to the magnet-like charms of an ever- escalating crazy story. Just keep going with it, making up wilder and wilder scenarios until the child is laughing and ready for re-entry to sanity again.

A new friend-in-the-making, Miss Gabey -- at this year's 4th of July party

A new friend-in-the-making, Miss Gabey — at this year’s 4th of July party

I have found 1) humor and 2) creativity to be the two greatest Secret Weapons to putting more fun into  parenting, grand-parenting, and babysitting.  Or just being a hit with your friend’s kids. No need to be afraid of Short People. They are the world’s greatest source of joy and entertainment, once you figure out what to do with them.


Best Ever Recipe for Kool-Aid Play-Dough

1 c. flour

1/2 c. salt

2 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tbsp. cooking oil

1 c. water

One packet of unsweetened Kool-aid any color or flavor (or a few drops of food coloring)

Put all ingredients in a saucepan, and stir it until it’s smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is a doughy lump. Put playdough on wax paper and let it cool a little bit. Then make it into a ball and keep it in a sealed container or Zip-loc bag when the kids are finished making their creations.

Rustic Shepherd’s Pie in an Iron Skillet & Memories of Mom


My husband Greg’s mother, Shirley, made him Shepherd’s Pie when he was a boy growing up in Oregon. As a girl growing up in Texas, I have had Taco Pie, Tamale Pie and Frito Pie — but Greg had to describe his mother’s Shepherd’s Pie to me. It took me a couple of tries, but it wasn’t long before I served him a slice of pie worthy of his mom’s memory. How I wish I had known her. Greg played me an old video of Shirley when she was about the age I am now, doing the Charleston to the delight of her kids and grandchildren. I am sure we would have loved each other!  Shirley passed away much too soon, when Greg was still in his thirties. She would have been 82 years old… today. Happy Birthday, Shirley, I hope you can see how happy, kind and generally all-around wonderful your son has grown up to be, from your window in heaven.


Greg’s mother, Shirley, at age 15. Greg has her full lips, and cheerful smile. (And when he had hair, he had his mother’s red hair as well.)

You can see my husband’s feet, as he was standing like a happy, hungry little boy in the background, waiting for me to hurry up and take a picture of this Rustic-Style Shepherd’s Pie so he could carry the hot pan back in the house and enjoy it for supper:)

greg's feet & pe

Over the years, I have simplified the recipe so I can make it faster and easier. By using Golden Potatoes instead of Idaho potatoes, I can simply “smash them” in the pan I cooked them in, without peeling them or using a mixer to make them smooth and fluffy. We like a few chunks of potato and bits of peel in this recipe. These potatoes also taste buttery without having to use a ton of butter. Finally, by baking the mixture in the same iron skillet where I cooked up the gravy, meat and veggies – you save having to wash yet another dish.

Re-creating your mate’s favorite childhood recipes is the closest you can get sometimes, to allowing them to filled “hugged again” by someone they loved as a little boy or girl.

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Happy Birthday, Shirley! I am doing my best to keep your boy happy, and well-fed and well-hugged.

What recipe did your mother or grandmother make that brings you back to her kitchen, and happy moments?


Rustic Shepherd’s Pie in an Iron Skillet

1 ½ lb ground beef
6 fresh mushrooms, chopped
¾ cup corn, frozen
2/3 cup frozen peas
5 carrots, peeled, cooked and sliced or diced (I usually microwave these in a small covered dish with a little water)
1 T. grill seasoning (or 2 t. salt, 1 t. pepper)

For Gravy
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
2 T. flour
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ cups beef broth (if you don’t have this on hand you can mix up some dry onion soup mix with water, or use  1/4 cup miso paste and water, or a a couple of bullion cubes and water to make 1 1/2 cups.)
½ cup red wine
2 T. half-n-half (optional)

For Potatoes:
6 Golden, thin-skinned buttery potatoes (about the size of tennis balls)
2 T. Ranch dressing prepared
1 T. butter
Half-n-half or milk – approximately anywhere from 1/3 to 1 cup
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees 
Scrub and quarter potatoes,  but no need to peel, then place in a large pot with salted water (about 2 t. salt & water about 2 inches above the potatoes).Put them on the back burner to boil and in the meantime…

In a large skillet, lightly brown the beef with grill seasoning, then drain off any extra fat. Then add the mushrooms and cook untl they are soft and have released their juices. Next add the frozen corn, frozen peas and cooked carrots. Heat through.
In a separate iron skillet, make the gravy: melt butter with olive oil on medium high heat. Sprinkle flour over the bubbling oil-butter mixture and stir with whisk to make a smooth paste. Add garlic and stir. Continue to whisk while slowing adding broth and wine, stirring and simmering until gravy has thickened. You don’t want it to be too thick… as more liquid will evaporate with baking and some will soak into veggies.

Carefully pour the meat and veggies into the gravy. Add half-n-half if you desire a creamier gravy. Taste and adjust seasonings. Turn off the heat while you smash the potatoes.

Drain the boiling water off of the potatoes when they are tender,  leaving hot potatoes in the hot pan. Add Ranch dressing, butter and half-n-half or milk, ¼ cup at a time and smash (with skins on) with a potato masher. (Don’t use a mixer as there is too much gluten in golden potatoes and you’ll end up with glue.) Season potatoes with salt and pepper to taste.
Using a large spoon, gently put mounds of potatoes over the beef and veggie mixture, and spread evenly to the edges of the skillet.

Place in 350 oven for 20 minutes or until heated through and tops of potatoes begin to get a little golden.

Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes and serve. When it is fresh and hot out of the oven it is easier to serve in wide bowls, but the next day, after refrigeration, you can slice it like pie, heat up in microwave and serve.

I like to serve a few fresh slices of tomatoes with this dish and call it dinner!


Nourish Your Soul: A Tall Drink of Peace

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(Becky, the Mama)

In a week like this one, in a world like ours,  sometimes we just need to turn off the TV,  shut down the social media, get still and reach for a tall drink of Peace.

In truth, the only guarantee we have for peace, have ever had really, is peace from God that blankets our minds and heart no matter what is happening around us. (In fact, we are guaranteed that “in this world you WILL have trouble.”)

This peace is found in images of Christ asleep in the boat in the midst of a storm, in birds that don’t worry about where or whether they’ll find food, and flowers that don’t fuss about what they will wear. It is found in not worrying about tomorrow because we only get 24 hours worth of grace at a time, like manna. (Matthew 6).

Cannon Beach 005
If we wait for World Peace, or No More Bad News, or for Our Current Circumstances to Change… before we can relax and experience peace, it will be a very long wait.

“I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 24:27 33

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

The best thing we can do in times of overwhelm is find our center of peace in Christ’s example and his words; ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with peace beyond human understanding, and then become Living, Breathing, Relaxed, Trusting, Walking Peace in and to a troubled world.

“Peace, Be Still”

Cabin Vacay 003


Lime Margarita Chicken Thighs & Road Trippin’ Bliss  

Tequila Lime Chicken Thihs

Lime Margarita Chicken Thighs

Greg and I went road trippin’ for the last  3 weeks, driving from Denver to Oregon to visit friends and family.   We alternately brainstormed business and book ideas, listening to  60’s music and audio books.   We may go for miles and hours without a word, but you’d be hard pressed to find a happier or more content couple on a car trip than we are. “I just love driving with my Baby,” Greg said. “I love it too.  But what do you like most?” I asked. “It is just you and me, alone, together.” We love people.  Adore our family and friends.  In fact we just said good-bye to two weeks of family in our home, here to celebrate my youngest son’s wedding to his darling bride.

My youngest son Gabe, his lovely wife Aleks and wedding party (The 3 little ring-bearers are are grandsons!)

My youngest son Gabe, his lovely wife Aleks and part of the wedding party (The 3 little ring-bearers are are grandsons!)

Rachel and Jared and little Jackson drove up and stayed for almost a week, and I was … simply put… in Nonny Heaven the whole time. gabe wed Jared, rach and jackson The morning after they drove away, I sat on the porch swing, looking at the strewn toys and “fire hose” that Jackson used to put out the “flower fires” for me, and had a good hard cry missing the sound of his sweet, cheerful voice waking me up with, “Hey Nonny! Let’s go outside and play.”

Jackson on Nonny's porch, puttin' out fires

Jackson on Nonny’s porch, puttin’ out fires

My sister and my nieces — who love to cook (and eat!) – joined me in the kitchen, whipping up goodies with unabashed joy.

My beautiful sister and nieces

My beautiful sister and nieces

My parents, too, came to bless us with their always-encouraging presence. mom dad wed   They prayed for us as we left them in charge of our house today, sending us off with travelling mercies and love.Every single moment of the last two weeks was a delight. That said, there is nothing quite like the quiet joy of being alone together, a party of two, with lavish amounts of unpressured time.   The busier our lives, the larger our circle of family and friends, these times feel more and more like a luxury.

gabe wed me n greg pretty
And there is something about being together in the car for miles on end that recharges us. ***** After I wrote the above, we enjoyed several more days of being alone together in pretty Oregon  hotel rooms before arriving at the coast  for a family reunion with my husband’s brother and sister and kids & more, where there are anywhere from 10 to 15 people coming for dinner on any given night. neskown 2014 I had planned to cook something simple and easy for the first night:  I’d just buy a few deli-roast chickens for main course.   Unfortunately, the chickens at the beach-side grocery store were closer to the size of sparrows, but cost as much as filet mignon. I quickly recalculated a cheaper Plan B.  Boneless chicken thighs were on sale, feed a bunch on a budget, absorb marinade quickly, cook fast and are generally juicier than breasts.   I decided to make my old favorite recipe for tequila lime chicken, which basically involves marinating chicken pieces in a giant margarita until they get relaxed and happy and just a little bit tipsy. If you poke the boneless thighs with a fork before marinating, they absorb the yummy juices much faster so that in less than an hour they are ready for a quick grilling on both sides, to create a delicious chicken dinner  that will put a silly grin on everyone’s face.

Tequila Lime Chicken Thighs with corn, tomato and avocado salsa and sauteed spinach

Lime Margarita Chicken Thighs

Serves 4, allow 2 boneless thighs per person)

8 boneless chicken thighs

Juice of 2 limes and 1 orange (If limes are small and not very juicy, as is sometimes the case, I will add juice of a lemon, too.)

¾ cup tequila

¼ cup agave nectar

Grill Seasoning (Or salt, pepper, garlic powder)  

Directions: Poke chicken thighs several times with a fork. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with grill seasoning.   Mix citrus juices, tequila, and agave nectar and pour over the chicken, coating and submerging chicken pieces into liquid as much as possible.    Let them hang out in the “margarita marinade” for an hour.

At this point you can grill the chicken pieces on an outdoor bbq grill or on a grill pan or skillet (graced with about a tablespoon of olive oil) indoors. Grill just a few minutes on each side on medium high heat until thighs are golden brown on both sides.  Put them on a large warm oven proof plate and cover with foil to let juices form and flow before serving.  Spoon juices over the top before serving.

As you can see in this picture, I served the chicken, as over a bed of freshly sautéed spinach and a quick salad of corn, tomatoes, and avocado.   Another fun way to serve these are to arrange grilled thighs (just slightly overlapping) in a pretty oven-proof platter or oblong Pyrex, sprinkle the whole dish with shredded cheese and some crumbled tortilla chips and run them under the broiler (heat source about 8 inches from pan) until the cheese melts and tortillas are golden   Then you can top the whole dish with diced tomatoes, avocados and chopped jalapenos or green onions or cilantro for your next fiesta. *Alcohol cooks out of this recipe, but the distinctive sweet-tender taste that the tequila leaves behind is delicious.


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